Getting back to exercise

I’m at a weight were I can exercise again after my exercise was previously restricted. Fantastic!

But with the decision to start exercising comes responsibility for my actions as I used to over-exercise, waking up before 6am to fuel my compulsion to burn calories, and also a variety of choices to make.

Physical implications of Anorexia have prevented me doing my favourite sport: swimming

I had a physiotherapy appointment not too long ago and have got the all clear to start to exercise again.

To give you a bit of background information I have suffered from an unstable shoulder and recurrent dislocations, the first being caused 2 years ago during a skiing accident. Since then, I began to diet, developed anorexia and become malnourished which compounded the problem, and I started to dislocate it all the more frequently. This has led to a restriction to the type of exercises I could do, and impacted my life greatly. It was a great source of almost unbearable pain which got progressively worse, and which had a huge impact on my life.

To count to date I have dislocated numerous times;

  1. skiing accident mentioned earlier
  2. when moving a box (needed to go to A&E)
  3. when engaging in compulsive exercise by going swimming (A&E trip again)
  4. when tripping down the stairs at a train station (relocated itself)
  5. when falling into water from an inflatable ring pulled behind a speedboat (A&E — an air ambulance even got called out which made me feel special [for the wrong reasons])
  6. when I fell onto my shoulder when my bed collapsed (A&E)

Most of those dislocations are a blur of memories that I barely recall — the sound of paramedics, the tingly feeling in my libs whilst being on laughing gas, the confusion and delirium when waking up from a bolus of IV ketamine, the pain and the comfort of friends and family, the sterile smell of a hospital setting, the morphine-induced hallucinations — and finally, the last incident when I had to be anaesthetised, was the final time I dislocated my shoulder.

Since then, I have had a shoulder operation (anterior shoulder stabilisation) to fix the tear in my ligaments (as I now have three pins in my shoulder). And so, as the rehabilitation carries on, slowly but surely, my body is recovering from the physical impact of my eating disorder.

Would things be different if I hadn’t starved my muscles away? Could I have prevented it? I don’t know. Perhaps the physio would have worked better in the earlier stages if my muscles were stronger. Perhaps I just had a physical weakness in my shoulder and my illness simply exacerbated it.

But now, I have the choice, as my physio says, to get back to swimming. This brings on challenges in the following ways:

  1. How do I ensure I exercise gently and not over-exercise once again?
  2. Where is the line drawn between “excessive” and “normal”

Exercising for the right reasons

I need to ask myself the following questions with regards to exercising again:

  1. Why do I want to exercise again? Do I secretly hope to lose weight? Or it is because I enjoy the activity?
  2. Am I capable of increasing my food intake and responding to hunger signals in order to compensate for the calories burned?
  3. If I do lose weight for not compensating enough, am I willing to gain it back?
  4. Am I prepared for the dial on the scale to increase if I turn more of my body mass into muscle?

I have yet to answer these; some of the questions can only be answered after I try it.

Exercising is a challenge for me: it brings back memories of  weight loss, of the obsession of doing x lengths in the pool, of my eating disorder.

I need to be responsible for my actions, and deal with any consequences involved. I need to exercise for the right reasons only, and not exercise because it fuels my anorexia.

Exercising alone vs exercising with others

I was recommended to join a team sport by my treatment at CAMHS. I was advised solitary activities would be dangerous territory. But alas, my shoulder prevents me from doing sports like netball, and so do financial constraints. I cannot find many who are willing to exercise with me either.

Therefore, in a way, by doing something like swimming I feel I need to be all the more cautious as it was, technically, against the advise of my old treatment team. They may have made a fair point: it is hard to judge what “excessive” is when you have suffered from an ED, and other “normal” individuals can add a sense of perspective.

I shall let you know how my journey to incorporate exercise into my routine works out. I might not be ready yet, but we shall see how I will turn out to deal with this.

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